The Mississippi State Board of Education has adopted a new policy as COVID-19 cases spread in schools across the state.
To combat the spread of the virus in classrooms, the SBE has adopted a policy that allows school districts to use hybrid scheduling if needed. A news release explains that the scheduling model “can only be used to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.”
Hybrid scheduling typically involves alternating groups of students attending in-person classes with the remaining students participating virtually. State Superintendent Dr. Carey Wright explained that social distancing was a factor in the SBE’s decision.
“The Mississippi Department of Education recommended the policy change because some superintendents expressed concern about the challenge of ensuring adequate social distance among students,” Wright said. “Hybrid scheduling gives districts another strategy to help educate students safely.”
Before the start of the 2021-22 school year, the SBE set requirements for districts that choose to offer a virtual learning option and established standards for schoolwide virtual learning days.
Under the SBE policies, districts that offer a virtual option for individual students must adopt local board-approved policies that include the criteria for students to participate in virtual learning, requirements for equipment, connectivity, attendance and student conduct, and assurances of equal access and non-discrimination and the delivery of Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for students with disabilities.
Districts are still required to provide a minimum of 180 days of instruction and must ensure any virtual learning days include actual teaching for a minimum of 330 minutes, as state law requires.
Currently, 29 schools have temporarily shifted to virtual learning due to COVID-19 outbreaks. 20,334 students are being quarantined in addition to 1,463 teachers. 5,933 students have tested positive for COVID-19 since the school year began along with 1,496 teachers.